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Old 04-19-2020, 04:25 AM   #1
Anders
 
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Default How to write outlines for a game supplement

All the members on the GURPS panel agreed that writing from an outline is essential to writing a good supplement. But I don't know how to write a good outline!

Can the good people of the community give me tips and tricks - or at least point me in the direction of a good source. I have read the editorial style, but I'm more thinking about how to organize a project. I think.
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Old 04-19-2020, 10:02 AM   #2
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

For Meltdown and Fallout I had the standard Disasters outline to work from.

For Will to Live my original outline idea was basically:

- How to Fight Robots
- IFF (the robot template conversions)
- Equipment and Diseases

plus front and back matter and approximate page counts. "How to Fight Robots" morphed into a section within the Resistance chapter, which also grew templates for non-robot characters. IFF stayed more or less as I'd thought of it (all those template conversions were the core idea of the book, which I'd originally pitched as a Pyramid article). The front half of E&D turned into Technology and Equipment, and expanded to a full run through Ultra-Tech/4e including where you can find the nice toys.

More generally I would say: think of all the things you want to include, group them hierarchically, and then (the bit I find hardest) try to work out how many pages you'll want for each.
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Old 04-19-2020, 11:45 AM   #3
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

I find outlines a good exercise, but not a straight jacket. You will find when writing the text things that don't work, that are longer or shorter than you expected, and/or good ideas that hadn't come to you early.

Keep in touch with your editor if things are going in a new direction.
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Old 04-20-2020, 06:55 AM   #4
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

Giving advice on this is a little difficult; I tend to think of "do an outline" as the solution to a problem, not as a problem in its own right. (My sister tells me that i was giving her advice on how to structure a paper when she was in high school!) But let me try to reflect on how I go about outlining.

I look for major issues that have to be addressed in treating a question. This usually includes an overview of the general subject, with discussion of preliminary issues, which serves as an introduction. Then I break the subject up into general areas; for example, I broke "electricity and electronics" up into laboratory equipment and tools, electrical devices, analog electronic devices, and digital electronic devices. There may be a subtopic that's convenient to split off into its own chapter, such as military and adventuring electronics, or the transition between social interaction and combat.

I start listing all the subtopics I can think of for each major topic. If possible, I group several narrow subtopics into one broad subtopic; for example, in Template Toolkit 2, I had a subsection on physical traits of races, with subsubsections on things like movement, manipulation, attack, and defense. Sometimes I may decide that a subtopic belongs in a different chapter; occasionally this may even mean reconceiving what a chapter is properly about. Once in a while, I may even change the order of the chapters; the current first chapter of Social Engineering started out as the final chapter, but I decided that a guide to how social mechanics fits into play style would be more helpful as an introductory section.

I look for incidental issues that aren't part of the main flow of a chapter, but are relevant to it, and give them boxes.

Once the list of topics is stabilized, I count how many there are, and divide that number into the number of pages to get a page length per topic. Then I go through and assign estimate page lengths to major sections and then to chapters. I go over this a few times, thinking about whether a section needs to be longer than average or can be shorter than average. This is a hard part, and you'll probably misjudge the first few times you do it; after you've written a few books you'll have a better feel for how long sections will be.

If I'm writing for SJ Games, I send the outline to Kromm, and revise according to his comments. You won't have that option if you're self-publishing, but I encourage you to find a volunteer with a good sense for document structure, if you can. Remember, no one can edit their own writing!

I hope this is some help.
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Old 04-20-2020, 10:52 AM   #5
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

Thank y'all. I also notice that if I want to write for SJG I need to buy five books. This may need to wait until I have more money (and Amazon starts delivering books again).
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Old 04-20-2020, 10:56 AM   #6
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anders View Post
I also notice that if I want to write for SJG I need to buy five books.
OK, what now?
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Old 04-20-2020, 11:33 AM   #7
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

From the Editorial Style page:

Quote:
Library for Writers

We strongly recommend that every game writer possess, and refer to, the following books:

The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law (this is our default style, so it is required and make sure you get the newest edition, usually released each summer)
Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Guinness World Records
The World Almanac and Book of Facts

The AP Stylebook is good but doesn't cover all possible situations. Acceptable secondary references are Garner's Modern English Usage, Fourth Edition and The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition. If you use a ruling from a secondary source, please note that for your editor in case it is something we should add to this document. In case of a dispute among rulings, this style guide and the AP Stylebook, in that order, are definitive.
The first one is required, at least and they strongly recommend I have all five.
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Old 04-20-2020, 12:33 PM   #8
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Anders View Post
From the Editorial Style page:



The first one is required, at least and they strongly recommend I have all five.
I feel like, these days, the internet should be mostly able to substitute for collections of "pure facts" like Guinness World Records and the World Almanac, and, likewise, there are several quite complete and authoritative dictionaries freely available online. That leaves the Style Guides as the only ones where it is really necessary to get that particular work, since they are essentially collections of personal preferences.
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Old 04-20-2020, 12:51 PM   #9
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

Quote:
Originally Posted by ravenfish View Post
I feel like, these days, the internet should be mostly able to substitute for collections of "pure facts" like Guinness World Records and the World Almanac, and, likewise, there are several quite complete and authoritative dictionaries freely available online. That leaves the Style Guides as the only ones where it is really necessary to get that particular work, since they are essentially collections of personal preferences.
If a particular dictionary is prescribed, it's best to use that specific dictionary as well.
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Old 04-20-2020, 12:56 PM   #10
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Default Re: How to write outlines for a game supplement

Remember, English is not my first language. A dictionary would be essential.
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